‘…………..One Mr Cletus Ozuruigbo, a non-academic staff that knew his father, once approached Marcel and said to him that his name would be on the board forever if he was made the SP. Mr Ozuruigbo said it, pointing to the blackboard installed on the wall. He was referring to the school’s chronicle of head students, past and present, dating back from 1916, …………’’
………..Strangled Fate, Kelechi Abonuyo
For those of us who attended grammar school or its equivalent, having faced the hassles of tough entrance exams and board of interviewers at the age of ten, eleven or so, we have this inborn resentment towards public school products. Okay, sorry, we have dropped that superior air, although public school products barely managed to acquire proper education. They neither read lots of classic novels nor mastered English grammar. So if you are such a product of grammar schools or their equivalents, take up your wine glass, fill it up and toast to a great and proud history behind. This short fictitious story that I want to share is like a hangover, which is an enduring memory of the great night before. I still glory in those hanging memories, just as you, perhaps.
But do you still remember ‘‘Nnanyi Ozuruigbo’’ – Our Father Ozuruigbo, that overzealous school messenger, who had seen many generations of our alma mater’s products come and go? I do still remember him, especially for that day of interview.
Nnanyi Ozuruigbo took it upon himself. He gathered a few of us and coached us on how to behave properly before the selection board. He told us to say the word ‘‘pardon’’ in case we didn’t understand or hear properly any question from any member of the board. He also told us never to lean forward on the table of the board and never to crack our phalanges in case we became tensed up. He taught us how to use the word ‘‘please’’. In short, he told us never ever to pick our noses.
This was the beginning of our history. Suddenly everything changed.
I had a public school friend, whose name was Marcel Ibe. I ran into him the other day on the street of life in Lagos, Nigeria. He, as was the practice in secondary school then, took the name Emperor Nero as an alias in order to be feared by students. The day the school functionaries were introduced to students at the assembly ground, unlike ours – which was a hall, come and see Emperor Nero in action, with eloquence. His speech became too erudite, too theatrical and too grammatical. During morning devotion, his voice could be heard as he made announcements with bad English. As was teachers’ practice, if a female teacher wanted to choose students who would peel the shell of melon seeds for her, Marcel would be directed to make such announcements, whereupon he would translate his announcement from mother tongue.
Instead of requesting, ‘‘those of you who would like to peel melon seeds’’, he would rather say, ‘‘those of you who would like to dance melon’’. That was his poor idea of achieving immortality. With vocabulary. Just words. But properly educated people don’t speak ‘‘–ism’’ or big words like ‘‘malingering’’. We always keep it simple. Believe me.
The above fictitious introductory story, in my opinion, describes the attitude of Governor Rochas Ethelbert Okorocha to life. In all his life endeavour, he is ruled by one passion: To be colourfully on the public space, like peacock and butterfly, so that his name would be read on that notice board, which holds the names of ‘‘senior prefects’’ – past and present, from time immemorial, with no duty attached to it. He is a prisoner in the jail of Pomp and Pageantry. He is greatly ruled by aesthetics. He projects no core values and always scandalising the weak among us. No wonder then he has never being in charge of government, which he was elected to be. Instead he took charge of politics, and politics only.
The landscape of Nigeria’s politicians abounds with men as Rochas Okorocha. Or, rather, Gov Rochas Okorocha copies from politicians like he. It was wordsmith Wole Soyinka who opened the door. Prof Wole Soyinka is not a politician. He said, ‘‘a tiger is known by his tigritude’’. Since then it became fashionable for politicians to mesmerise their audience instead with empty words, not deeds. We can find such lexicons as ‘‘boycott all boycottables’’, attributed to Mazi Mbonu Ojike – a first republic politician and academician. Many of them abound. But soon, we began to hear higgledy-piggledy, hocus-pocus, jiggery-pokery and some useless –ism words, like jingoism and tribalism, from politicians. Our electorate is largely illiterates and can be impressed and swept off their feet with such erudite display of words.
With iberiberism, we now can confirm that half education is quite a disease – the type that make us cry: Haba Father!
Just this morning, a properly educated friend of mine called me Onye Iberibe – stupid person, just because I am from Imo State, where Onye Iberibe holds sway. Not only that he called me this, another whom I am friends with concurred with a wink in his eyes. Of course, their logic – material implications and equivalents, is that no people can grow beyond their leadership. That our governor is Onye Iberibe doesn’t mean all of Ndi Imo (Imo people) are Ndi Iberibe (stupid people).
Since we have dropped that divisive resentment and levelised the course of history, we now call on all who share a proud and profound history: Grammar schools and Public schools; Head Students: past and present. Wherever you are, you know yourselves and your mates. Get in touch with your mates. A clarion call beckons on June 30, 2018, at Concord Hotel in Owerri, the Imo State capital. Our aim is to exorcise Imo State of Iberiberism. Come and let’s review our shared and profound history and how things suddenly changed in Igbo Heartland.
The clarion call is being anchored by a group of professionals in politics, under the auspices of Imo Network Group (ING), who can no longer stand by and watch. The group’s objective is primarily to throttle professional politicians, who have let us down for too long.
The group is afraid that if we are unable to heed to this clarion call, our collective bell will continue to toll at the mission tower for too long, with four years as a minimum.
Whether in riches or in poverty, in life or in death, I end this piece with an expression from a sermon by John Donne, which is both profound and eternally true.
‘‘Because we are all part of mankind, any person’s death is a loss to all of us: “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
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